Characters: Katia Santiago, Miina Awenata, Dr. Robert Evers
As the Away Team continued their trek down to the valley floor, they marvelled not only at the shimmering city that lay far below, but at the surrounding lush foliage. Everywhere there were tropical plants, big leafy bushes and graceful, twisting vine-like plants that reached far over their heads and into the sky above. At the edge of the city, the fragile-looking tendrils began to appear as if they were trying to reach the cave ceiling above as the Away Team continued their search among the ruins of what they believed was the first Vorlon city any of them had ever seen.
The surroundings were beautiful, and for more than just a few minutes, the entire group just gazed in wonder at the spectacular structures created by the Vorlons. The luminescence of the buildings seemed to shine with a brilliance and light. The spires rose higher and higher with no visible doors, but with plenty of windows. But the lowest of those seemed to be close to twenty feet above the ground. It was all a mystery to them–a strange, beautiful, puzzling mystery.
It was Katia who finally broke the silence.
“I know we are just a bit overwhelmed by all of this, but we came to see what we could find. Let’s gather as much information as we can, and get back to the ship.” She paired the security officers with Miina and Bobby, and instructed them to scout out different areas in the city. She would remain near the center of the city, and they would all keep in touch with each other. “At least our links seem to be working, even if our scanners aren’t,” she said. “In case your link fails, we will meet back here in exactly one hour. Let’s get going.”
Miina was the first one to use her link. “Team Beta reporting from the south-east quadrant. The light is more intense over here, as if the power source is nearby. It’s giving off a tremendous amount of energy, but I am not able to locate the source.”
“Understood,” Katia told her. “Just find out what you can. Santiago out.”
“Alpha Team here,” Bobby said, tapping his link. “Anybody get a look inside these buildings? They looked looted or trashed. Thankfully there is no need for my medical expertise–not yet anyway. Then again, if only there was someone here, maybe they could answer some questions for us.”
“Team Leader reports the same,” Katia answered. “Anybody have any ideas yet on where this light comes from?”
“Not yet, Chief.”
An hour later saw the Away Team assembled once again. Katia sighed. “Eventually, after the war, there will probably be many teams that will make their way here to study this…city of lights…but for now, we need to get back to the ship. Anybody have any comments?”
“I think we found more questions than answers,” Miina offered, “but if the Captain decides that this is worth another look, at least we have a better idea of what is down here. Maybe we could rig some sort of dampening field so that our instruments would work.”
“There have definitely been people here before us,” Bobby noted. “We found a lot of mining supplies piled here and there. And, at one point, we had even found a large crater next to one of the buildings where it looked like a large piece had been dug up out of the ground, but other than that, no one appeared to still be around.”
Katia nodded. “That’s another mystery in and of itself. Who has done all the looting, and where are they? What happened to them? And why are their supplies still here? Some look like they were unloaded and not even touched.”
“And the beauty of this…city…is overwhelming,” Miina whispered. “If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew we had to get back to the ship, I’d easily just stay here. Thankfully we have each other to remind us of that.” She paused. “I know there has been some damage to the city…by someone…or something, but…”
For a moment, Miina’s words escaped her. Recently, she had congratulated herself for finally coming to terms with her self…or at least was beginning to. She had tried to ease herself out of her peculiar habit of translating from Minbari…but now, she slipped back into the familiar speech patterns, as if it was a link back to her life on the Phoenix and beyond, something for her to hang on to until they were safely away from the planet. “We must focus our minds on our mission,” she said, her speech suddenly formal, “lest the peace and tranquility of our surroundings take precedence and govern our actions to the contrary.”
Miina’s shift in speech patterns was not lost on the Chief Engineer. Katia had mixed feelings about their mission from the start, and they had both attempted to communicate their ambivalence to each other with nods and glances. Now Miina, it seemed, had managed to put their feelings into words.
As they began their long trek up the stone staircase out of the valley, the group took on a somber mood, as if a dark cloud had descended on them once again. No one wanted to leave, but the more they felt pulled back to the city of lights, the more they knew that they had to press on.
As they made their way out of the area and into the trees, they heard a loud crash nearby, breaking the silence that had fallen over them all. It was sudden and no one could tell where it came from. Miina pulled out her scanner and was able to locate the source about a quarter mile away from their present location, and directly in their path back to their own shuttle. They would have no choice but to investigate it along they way. The scanners unmistakably reported one life sign, and they sped up their trek, hoping that whatever…or whoever… it was, it would be friendly.
Just as they were hitting the rise for the last time, Katia looked back in the direction that they had just come from, and saw a wall of rock. The ravine had disappeared. No more overhang and no more rock formations that they had gone through to get to the city of the Vorlons. She blinked, not quite sure she had seen it and suddenly, there it was again, just as it was when they had trekked out of it. The Chief Engineer shook her head to clear it, unsure if what she had seen was real or not. In this Godforsaken place, who knows what is true and what is fantasy? she thought to herself. She almost spoke up and told the others what she had seen, but didn’t want to discredit herself in the eyes of the others so she kept quiet.
Meanwhile, back on the Phoenix, Carver, who had Ops at the time and was monitoring the Away Teams as best he could through the interference, noticed that the southern team had disappeared from sensors and signaled the Tac to help look for them. Suddenly the bridge crew was thrown into a frenzy as they thought they had lost the team. Then, just as suddenly as they had disappeared, they reappeared on the ships sensors and the panic subsided, at least for the moment, but the bridge crew did not rest easy for fear it just might happen again.
The Security Officers took the lead as they neared the source of the mysterious crash that they had heard, and scanned the area. As they came through the trees, they saw a small, one or two-person spacecraft sitting at the end of a path it had cut through the vegetation. It looked pretty beat up, as if it had been through a storm or a firefight, or both, in order to make it down to this planet. It had carbon scoring over most of the hull and indentations suggesting it had been peppered with the debris of an asteroid. A hole had been ripped in the side and and it looked as if no one inside could have survived the crash, however the scanners registered one lifesign reading. Bobby hurried forward, despite the protests of the Security Personnel and tried to squeeze through the door that swung open on it’s side.
His physician’s training momentarily overriding that of the Rangers, Bobby entered the disabled shuttle, aware that the one life sign that registered on the scanners might need his help desperately. Katia felt the fear and confusion inside emanating from someone and followed close behind him.
Miina wanted to enter the shuttle as well, feeling that she was a bit more expendable than the doctor or the chief engineer, but common sense, and the extensive damage to the shuttle, told her that the doctor skills might be needed much more than any skills she might have. And as she saw the chief hurry ahead with Evers, her years in Earthforce made her defer to Katia, who was in command of the mission.
But Bobby was not ready for what met his eyes. A lone woman, probably in her late thirties, was standing, no, leaning heavily on the hilt of a large, two-edged sword. Dazed and bruised, with a gash over one eye, long brown hair hanging in disarray over her shoulders, she regarded him angrily, her blue eyes dimmed with pain, but blazing nonetheless.
“Come one step closer to me,” she hissed through teeth clenched against the pain, “and demon or no, I swear I’ll run you through!”
Copyright (c) 1998 Judy Caswell and Tamara Friese. All rights reserved.